The trade deadline has come and gone. As always, it brought with it a flurry of moves in the few days leading up to it and on the actual day itself, Mar. 21. The Boston Bruins were “fairly” quiet at this year’s deadline. Their biggest move was the trade for defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks and subsequent signing of him to an eight-year extension. The deal sent their 2022 first-round pick, 2023 and 2024 second-round picks, and defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore to Anaheim.
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Trades are always a big topic of discussion around the league: who should be traded, who will be traded, what should or could a return for trading a player be. With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, trade talk now turns to the offseason.
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There is still so much that can happen between now and the end of the season, and conversations can change very quickly in the NHL. Though, looking at the state of the Bruins’ roster, there are a number of changes that could take place this offseason, especially if they have another second-round exit in the postseason. Giving up what they did for Lindholm sends a message that the team is expecting to go further than they have the last two seasons, which ended in disappointing splutters in the second round. If they don’t make it further, it may be time to make some bigger changes to the roster and these are three guys who may be on the trade block.
It is surprising that Jake Debrusk is still a Boston Bruin. Last summer, he made a request with the team’s front office to be traded and that request was made public back in Nov. 2021. Not trading him and signing up to a two-year extension with an annual average value of $4 million reinforces the idea that the team is trying to go all-in on the Stanley Cup this year. By signing him to an extension before trading him, they don’t have to worry about other teams worrying about inking a deal with him and risking arbitration since he was set to become a restricted free agent this offseason.
DeBrusk has been fantastic in the past month and has greatly benefitted from spending time on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. He has 26 points, including 15 goals in 58 games this season and has come a long way from his 14 points and only five goals in 41 games in the 2020-21 season which also saw him be a healthy scratch for several games.
While DeBrusk has shown great maturity through this whole process and seems content to stick with the team through the end of the season, the request is still there and should be honored by the team. Especially if he continues to play the way he has and knowing that he is under a decent contract for the next two years, the Bruins may find a pretty active and willing market for him. As they look towards building for the future, it would be nice to get some young prospects and draft picks for him in a trade this summer.
With everything that has happened, a DeBrusk trade is almost definitely going to occur once we reach the offseason. Then again, a month ago I would have said he’d definitely be gone at the trade deadline. Things do tend to surprise you every day in the NHL.
With the addition of Lindholm, someone is being pushed down the depth chart on defense. Mike Reilly has struggled this season and hasn’t been the top-four defenseman the team has needed. Between him, Derek Forbort, and Connor Clifton, someone will probably have to be traded this summer, especially with young prospects coming up and a guy like Jakub Zboril getting healthy again who was making moves to solidify his spot on the third pairing before his ACL tear.
It may end up coming down to deciding between Reilly and Clifton for who stays this summer. Reilly is in the first year of a three-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $3 million while Clifton is in the second year of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $1 million. Between the two of them, Reilly has more points, but with the bigger contract and more potential value on the mark, he may end up being the one they try to move.
If he can get back to the player he was when he first arrived in Boston at the 2021 Trade Deadline, then this becomes a different story. As it is now, a change of scenery may serve him well.
The Nick Foligno free agent signing this year has not been the best. At 34 years old, he is not the same player he was a few seasons ago. He only has two goals in 48 games this season and only 11 total points. He is also a minus-10 and only averages about 13 minutes of ice time, well below his career average of 16 minutes.
Foligno is a great personality guy and a tremendous leader. But, the Bruins have a guy like that in Bergeron and unfortunately, he hasn’t shown to be worth the $3.8 million cap hit he carries over the next two seasons. For context, he is making more than guys like Craig Smith and Erik Haula, who both have 30 points this season. He currently has a no-move clause, but once this season ends, that turns into a 16 team no-trade list.
Unlike DeBrusk, the Bruins won’t be able to get much in return for a Foligno trade. But, it will probably be better for all parties involved to move him this offseason.
Bruins On A Hot Streak
As already mentioned, the fact that the Bruins did not trade DeBrusk at the deadline means that this team is really going to try and make a push for the Stanley Cup this season. They’re 14-2-1 in their last 17 games and just had a game where 10 different skaters registered points. It was against the Montreal Canadiens, but this team finally looks like they have depth. Players are stepping up and buying in. Pastrnak is the elite talent he has been for most of his career after a slow start (for him) and Haula has risen to the occasion of being the second-line center.
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With everything going right at the moment as we head into the back half of the season, another burnout in the second round should warrant a bigger shake-up this summer. DeBrusk, Reilly, and Foligno are fairly obvious trade candidates even if the Bruins go on a great run this postseason. It’s been said before and it will probably be said again before their careers are over, but if the Bruins want another Cup for the likes of Bergeron and Marchand, they’ll need to be aggressive in building a contender.
Right now, they look as good as any team in the league and expectations are rising. If they fail to live up to them, bigger changes could and should be on the horizon for this summer’s offseason.